Loaded Salmon Mashed Potatoes

Enjoy the flavors of a stuffed baked potato with this dish, but with the velvety smoothness of mashed potatoes. These creamy spuds are topped with baked salmon, farm-fresh kale, grated Parmesan cheese and crunchy bacon.

This meal makes a beautiful presentation on the plate when entertaining guests, and also makes an elegant appetizer with smaller portions served in martini glasses.
You could even make a mashed potato bar and let guests select from these topping and others, like pulled pork, roasted broccoli and smoked gouda.

Ingredients:
1 pound salmon filet, cut into 4 pieces
1 teaspoon dried oregano
½ teaspoon salt, divided
½ teaspoon ground white pepper, divided
1 lemon
4 medium potatoes
1 tablespoon butter
¼ cup skim or low-fat milk
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium bunch kale
¼ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
4 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Season salmon with oregano, ⅛ teaspoon salt and pepper and place in a baking dish. Zest and juice lemon, drizzling both evenly on top of salmon. Cook for 15 to 20 minutes, until salmon is cooked through.
2. Leaving the skin on the potatoes, scrub well and cut into 2-inch pieces. Add potatoes in a large pot and add enough water to cover. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and cook for about 20 minutes, until fork tender.
3. Drain potatoes and return to the pot. Add butter, milk, ¼ teaspoon salt and pepper and mash to combine. With a hand mixer, blend until velvety smooth.
4. Remove stems from kale and roughly chop. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat, add kale and 2 tablespoons water. Sauté for 4 to 5, until wilted. Season with ⅛ teaspoon salt and pepper.
5. Scoop the mashed potatoes onto four plates and top each with equal amounts of sautéed kale. Remove skin from salmon and add a slice on top of potatoes and kale. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and bacon crumbles, and serve.

Note: The potatoes can be made the day before for a fast weeknight meal. You may need to add a splash of milk when reheating.

Servings: 4

Sausage, Kale and Smoked Gouda Frittata

Frittatas are one of my favorite one-pan meals to serve for breakfast, brunch or dinner. They are so versatile and can be made with any of your favorite vegetables, meats and cheeses. This one incorporates fresh kale, sausage and smoked gouda for a combination that will please both meat and vegetable lovers alike. It pairs well with homemade hash browns and freshly squeezed orange juice.

Ingredients:
½ pound ground mild sausage
1 medium bunch kale, trimmed and chopped
6 eggs
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper
¼ cup low-fat milk
¾ cup smoked gouda, shredded

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
2. Heat an 8-inch cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat and cook sausage until browned. Drain grease from skillet and return to stovetop.
3. Add kale to skillet in two batches and sauté until wilted, about 5 minutes total.
4. Beat eggs with a whisk in a medium bowl. Stir in salt, pepper, milk and gouda.
5. Pour egg mixture over kale and sausage and gently stir to evenly distribute. Let the eggs start to set for 1 to 2 minutes without stirring. Place skillet in the oven and bake for 20 to 25 minutes until the eggs are set and the frittata is lightly browned. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Servings: 4

Winter Vegetable Salad

Butternut squash is the star of my Winter Vegetable Salad, creating a hearty meal that is satisfying for lunch or dinner. Caramelized onions, toasted pecans and creamy goat cheese give this salad a mixture of sweet, savory, crunchy and velvety goodness.

This colorful bowl of nutritious ingredients will brighten your mood, even on a cold and cloudy winter day. Enjoy it with ingredients warm from the oven and stove top or with chilled squash and onions that you have prepared in advance.

Ingredients:
1 large butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cubed
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
1 tablespoon butter
2 large onions, peeled and thinly sliced
1 teaspoon sugar
1 head romaine lettuce, washed and chopped
½ cup pecans, toasted and chopped
2 ounces (about 4 tablespoons) goat cheese, crumbled
Bottled salad dressing, such as Champaign vinaigrette

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. On a large baking sheet, add butternut squash and drizzle with 1 tablespoon olive oil. Sprinkle salt and pepper over squash and toss to evenly coat. Arrange squash in a single layer and roast for 30 to 35 minutes until tender and lightly brown, flipping with a spatula halfway through cooking.
2. In a large skillet, heat remaining olive oil and butter over medium-low heat. Once butter has melted, add onion slices and sprinkle with sugar. Stirring occasionally, let the onions cook about 20 to 25 minutes, until caramelized and golden brown.
3. Add 2 cups of lettuce to each plate and top with equal amounts of squash, caramelized onions, pecans and goat cheese.
4. Drizzle with 2 tablespoons of your favorite salad dressing and serve.

Note: You can substitute baby spinach or your favorite leafy greens for romaine and any type of winter squash for the butternut. Use whatever fresh produce you can get your hands on in February.

Servings: 4 

Garlicky Shrimp and Sweet Potato Pizza

If you made my Spicy Sweet Potato Puree and have leftovers, this recipe will put them to good use. Don’t worry if you do not have leftovers, the puree is easy to make and will not add too much preparation to this easy recipe.

Pizza is one of my favorite foods and I love trying unique combinations like this one with fresh winter sweet potatoes and spinach. Shrimp makes a great lean protein to add as a topping and the flavor medley tones down the Chipotle pepper in the potato puree, providing a nice balance of savory and sweet with a slight touch of heat.

Ingredients:
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 pound (about 25) cooked frozen medium shrimp, defrosted, tail and peel removed
4 cups tightly packed fresh baby spinach
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
1 pizza dough ball (about the size of a grapefruit)
2 tablespoons cornmeal
¾ cup leftover Spicy Sweet Potato Puree
½ cup shredded mozzarella cheese

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit.
2. Warm olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add garlic and cook for one minute, until fragrant. Add shrimp and spinach to skillet and sauté for about 3 minutes, until spinach has wilted. Season with salt and pepper.
3. Roll pizza crust to a thin layer, about ⅛ inch thick and 12 to 14 inches in diameter.
Place crust on a pizza pan and spread Spicy Sweet Potato Puree on top. Add shrimp and spinach mixture, distributing evenly. Top with mozzarella cheese.
4. Bake for 12 to 14 minutes, until cheese melts and edges of crust turn golden brown. Remove from oven, slice into 8 wedges and serve.

Note: When I make homemade pizza crust, I often double the recipe and freeze to have on hand for fast weeknight meals like this one.

Servings: 4 ~ Serving size: 2 slices

Pulled Pork Potato Skins

One of my favorite BBQ restaurants in Memphis serves a dish called the Idaho Pig, which is a giant baked potato stuffed with pulled pork and a lot of cheese and barbecue sauce. It is one of my favorite indulgences and the inspiration for this lighter version that is just as satisfying. These potato skins are a crowd pleaser and perfect appetizer or meal for the big game.

I love barbecue sauce, but most bottled sauces are high in sodium. This recipe uses only two servings of sauce for the entire recipe, keeping the sodium down while still delivering a sweet and tangy punch that will make you feel like you are hanging out in your favorite BBQ joint.

Ingredients:
8 small potatoes
2 cups pulled pork (from Slow Cooker Drunken Pork)
¼ cup barbecue sauce
½ cup yellow cheddar cheese, shredded
½ cup white cheddar cheese, shredded
16 hot and sweet jalapeño pepper slices
Optional: light sour cream for serving

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. Pierce potatoes a few times with a fork and bake for 30 minutes.
2. Remove potatoes, leaving oven on. Let potatoes cool enough to touch and cut each in half. Scoop out a small amount of potato, leaving a divot like space in the potato halves.
3. In a small bowl, toss pulled pork with barbecue sauce and stir to evenly coat. Add equal amount of pork to potato halves and top with two types of cheddar cheese and 1 jalapeño pepper slice.
4. Bake for 7 to 10 minutes, until cheese has melted. Serve immediately with light sour cream if desired.

Note: You can reserve the potato that you scoop out and add to mashed potatoes or potato soup for another meal.

Servings: 4 to 8 ~ Serving size: 4 for a meal and 2 for an appetizer

Slow Cooker Drunken Pork

I will always be partial to Memphis-style barbecue sauces with their perfect sweet and tangy combination. However, I do appreciate a good vinegar-based sauce from North Carolina and white sauce from Alabama. This recipe is perfect for entertaining a crowd that may have strong opinions about which state has the best sauce. Simply serve a variety of warm sauces along with your pork and let your guests decide.

Ingredients:
2½ to 3 pound pork butt
1 can or bottle of craft beer, such as IPA
4 cloves garlic
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon black pepper
Optional: Barbecue sauce, heated

Directions:
1. Place pork, beer, garlic cloves, salt and pepper in a slow cooker. Cover and cook on low heat for 6 to 8 hours, until the meat is tender and starts to fall apart.
2. Transfer the pork to a cutting board and let sit until cool enough to handle. Using two forks, shred the pork and discard any bone or large pieces of fat.
3. Serve shredded pork plain or toss with your favorite barbecue sauce.

Note: This recipe is also very adaptable for different meals throughout the week. It makes a great lean protein topping for salads and baked potatoes.

Servings: 5 to 6 ~ Serving size: varies depending on cut of meat 

Mushroom and Black Bean Omelet

When I make my Sweet and Spicy Veggie Quesadilla, I don’t always make six servings, which means I have extra black beans and sautéed mushrooms on hand. That’s where the inspiration came from for this Mushroom and Black Bean Omelet. Treasure those leftovers and use a little creativity to transform them into a new delicious meal.

Breakfast is one of my favorite meals and I think weekday meals should be just as delicious as slowly savored weekend brunches. This recipe is fast and easy to make any day of the week. If you are really pressed for time, make a couple of these over the weekend and microwave to enjoy on your busy mornings.

Ingredients:
2 eggs
⅛ teaspoon salt
⅛ teaspoon black pepper
¼ teaspoon chipotle Chile powder
½ teaspoon butter
¼ cup black beans
¼ cup mushrooms, sautéed
¼ cup mozzarella cheese, shredded
Optional: light sour cream and salsa for serving

Directions:
1. Crack eggs in a small bowl. Season with salt, pepper and chipotle Chile powder and blend with a fork.
2. Melt butter in a small non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Pour eggs into skillet and continuously stir with a spatula, until the eggs start to lightly scramble. Use the spatula to smooth the eggs out evenly across the skillet and start to loosen the edges of the omelet.
3. When the eggs are almost set, add black beans, mushrooms and mozzarella cheese to one side. Fold omelet in half to cover ingredients. Cook for about a minute longer. Flip omelet and cook an additional minute, until outside is lightly browned and cheese has melted. Serve as is or top with light sour cream and salsa.

Note: Create your own version by substituting the mushrooms and beans for last nights’ leftover vegetables, such as steamed broccoli and roasted potatoes.

Servings: 1 ~ serving size: 1 omelet